I wanted to talk about something that’s been top of mind for me. (I know I’m talking about pregnancy a lot lately. But it’s become just such a huge part of my everyday life, it’s hard to ignore!)
I think I’ve mentioned it before, but I’ve always dreamed of being a mom. I knew from an early, early age that I wanted children in some capacity. However, it wasn’t until I was actually pregnant though that I realized that my dreams of motherhood always started with a child in my arms. I had truly never considered the pregnancy portion of the journey.
To be completely honest, I think the idea of pregnancy always freaked me out a little, too. Well, once I was pregnant, I felt like I was on a rollercoaster I wasn’t prepared for at all. Everything felt foreign…. including my body.
BODY IMAGE DURING PREGNANCY
Long before pregnancy was even on my radar, it took me a very, very long time to get comfortable in my own skin. Learning how to work out in my mid-twenties was the first time when I started to feel a (positive) shift in my body confidence. I was a lanky, uncoordinated kid and then an unconfident, anxious teen and then an overworked, undernourished young adult. It took me years to feel confident, even sexy, in my body and I found that by working out regularly in the gym. The strength– and endorphins– helped me feel like my best self. It had nothing to do with how I looked and all about how I felt.
Then last year, I struggled with my weight due to intense anxiety related to the pandemic. I felt like I was eating normally enough and I was channeling my anxious energy into workouts. But while I continued to remain strong, I struggled to keep weight on. And, despite my best efforts, dropped to the lowest weight I had ever been in my adult life.
After I went to my first OBGYN appointment for pregnancy, I almost immediately gained weight, which my doctors all agreed was both normal and healthy to play catch up and prepare my body to nourish a baby. But the real difficulty for me was feeling so weak from the morning sickness and not being able to work out as intensely as I was used to. Quickly, I realized that working out was not only a way for me to stay physically healthy, but I drew a lot of mental health positivity from it as well.
I also drew self-confidence from pushing myself through difficult and challenging workouts.
Without it, I started to lose my sense of self, honestly, and then, on top of that, I was witnessing physical changes in my body on a daily basis. Every morning brought something new. My jeans not buttoning one day, a new stretch mark on my breast, a darkening around my belly button, my face changing shape.
I’ve always struggled with control issues and this specific lack of control over my body was a lot. (To be transparent, I restarted therapy for many reasons regarding the pregnancy, and this was a big one naturally.) It felt quite akin to going through puberty, which was a challenging time for me for various reasons, and that brought up a lot of tough memories and feelings. I kept having to remind myself that I was not a teenager anymore. That I was a different person and way, way, way more equipped to deal with these changes– to put it very simply.
Additionally, there’s also something horrible about going through this publicly and I don’t just mean walking around in public where I have felt a bit more on display than usual. But having strangers on the internet anonymously send DMs about how they have popcorn ready for the “whale watch” or just commenting with one word ziggers (“gross.”). I wanted to, quite literally, hide.
Over time, something magical happened though.
My body, while still undergoing daily changes, didn’t feel as foreign. I was able to reframe a lot of my hang ups as things of beauty and strength, instead of acts of defiance. After all, the changes my body has been undergoing has been to grow a human. Every time I feel him roll around or kick me, I think about how my body will forever be his first home.
I still have moments where I feel incredibly ugly or where I don’t recognize myself in the mirror, but overall? I look at my body now with awe. I’ve been trying to catch what I say about myself in my head and reframe it into something positive. Instead of nitpicking flaws and differences, I express gratitude for what my body is doing. I block anyone who sends a negative message or comment– and say a silent prayer for them because I feel like they need it. I also have started doing self-belly massages. And I swear it’s helped me feel more connected to the baby (and way more comfortable with how my bump looks and feels). I try to examine my body in the mirror to familiarize myself with its newness– its shapes, its curves.
The other day I got out of the shower and I was so…. mesmerized by my body, in a way I had never felt before.
Even in my best shape when I felt peak confidence and peak strength, I had never felt this deep, deep love and appreciation for my body. Maybe this shouldn’t be admitted on the internet, but I thought to myself, “I want to remember how I feel right now forever.” And you know what I did? I set up a tripod and snapped a few photos. I did it for no one but myself. And I can’t even describe why I felt such a strong pull to do so. Uploading them into a (very password protected) file (lol), I was able to see myself and my body in such a beautiful, meaningful way. Even more so than what I saw in the mirror that morning.
I’m sure this topic of body image will continue to evolve as I deliver my son, go through more pregnancies (should we choose to), and as I generally age. This is just one portion of what will hopefully be a long life in my body. I do just find it so intriguing that what had felt so foreign to me a few months ago would blossom into me feeling the most beautiful I have ever felt.